Campervans could vanish into thin Aire

On the Edge

WHAT A WASTE  Dedicated campervan service areas allow motorhome owners to dispose of their waste at ‘dump stations’ connected to municipal sewerage systems. Such facilities are commonplace elsewhere.

On The Edge
Áine Ryan

STAYCATION summer has been great. It has been wonderful to see people who don’t spring directly from one’s own family tree or friendly neighbourhood. Hear accents from way inside the Pale. Earwig on the musicality of voices from the wee north.   
And, I know, politically correct tourism-town residents are not meant to say this out loud: but some of us will breathe a big sigh of relief when the visitor influx fades and all the cars and SUVs, caravans and campervans trundle back across the Shannon.
I want my beaches back. I want my boreens back. I want my seat outside my favourite coffee shop back.
You know what I mean!  
I want to be able to walk down Bridge Street in Westport and not have to weave and wrestle through gaggles of wide-eyed families pointing at Mayo flags and buckets and spades; mulling over handmade jewellery and delicate ceramics; scratching their heads about coffees and cakes, brunches and lunches.
However, not being an out-and-out curmudgeon, I have absolutely enjoyed the vibrancy of the new on-street café culture.
Well done to Mayo County Council for all those extra picnic benches and tables located in random spots around this lovely heritage town. Well done, too, to former town architect Simon Wall et al for thinking ahead regarding the upgrade of the Quay. The buzz is just brilliant with the ordered car-parking, widened pathways, restored swimming area. An oasis for al fresco dining. A gateway to the sylvan pathways of Westport House.

Motorhome myopia
WHY though has Westport – the tourism hub for the whole county and beyond – not developed a properly serviced parking facility for campervans and motorhomes? Surely, it is a no-brainer?
Last month, The Mayo News reported on concerns about waste disposal at Mulranny beach. It had been suggested it was by the owners of a campervan. Raised at a municipal district meeting, it was argued that such actions could endanger the Blue Flag status of this beautiful beach. But is it really surprising that these incidents are not a more regular occurrence?
Once again, is it not a clear example of how the successful marketing of the Wild Atlantic Way has left a fundamental deficit in proper infrastructure for the thousands of visitors descending on Clew Bay and its many beauty spots? A clear fallout from the pandemic is surely the increased ownership of campervans?
Wander down Westport Quay any evening and there is at least a half dozen parked up in various spots. The dogs on the street know that the main cohort who owns these vehicles is represented mainly by well-off, retired, or semi-retired people. They have money to spend. But why should they bother coming back when there are no municipal facilities, like there are throughout Europe, and indeed increasingly throughout Ireland?
How much would it cost Mayo County Council to install some Flot Bleu power-points and, indeed, general motorhome Aire facilities, so that these visitors can also dispose of their waste safely and get fresh water.
Aires, or motorhome stopovers, have become increasingly regulated throughout Europe with strict stipulations about the length of stay – usually overnight – and no ‘camping behaviour’ allowed. That means awnings and outdoor furniture are strictly prohibited.
Since the pandemic has utterly changed the whole profile of the tourism experience, surely we should be welcoming motorhome visitors with open-arms?
In the case of a progressive tourism honey-pot like Westport, which happens to have a big almost-empty carpark at the Quay, isn’t it past time to catch up with towns like Cobh and Bantry?